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Need-to-Know Info for Planning a Theme-Park VacationJuly 1, 2007 By: Travel Agent Central Contributor Home-Based Travel Agent
Whether visiting multiple parks or lolling poolside, here are some tips for planning a theme-park vacation
Getting Around: If your clients are interested in visiting multiple area attractions, a car rental is essential. Cabs are difficult to come by deep in the heart of places such as Disney and can be costly. Plus, full-size car rentals in Orlando sell for less than $150 per week on average. All offer 10 percent commission unless otherwise stated.
Wholesalers: A wholesaler that offers package deals is NWA WorldVacations (800-727-1111, www.worldagentdirect.com), which offers air, hotel, theme park tickets and more. Commissions vary. Other wholesalers include GoGo Worldwide Vacations (www.gogowwv.com), Travel Impressions (www.travimp.com) and Southwest Airlines Vacations (www.vaxvacationaccess.com/wnv).
Wholesalers also offer discounted theme park tickets. If your clients plan on doing more than one theme park at a particular complex, suggest a multi-day pass. At Disney, there are a variety of ticket plans under the "Magic Your Way" banner. Some options allow guests to jump from park to park in the same day, or even visit one of its water parks. Universal offers two-day passes at a substantial discount compared to a pair of one-day tickets. The Orlando FlexTicket offers access to Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, SeaWorld, Wet 'n Wild and Busch Gardens Tampa Bay for one price.
Resorts: Some hotels are designed to be super-kid-friendly, while others are more sedate, offering a relaxing respite from crowded, noisy parks.
Universal Orlando Resort offers a trio of properties, each appealing to different personalities. There's the luxurious Portofino Bay Hotel (www.loewshotels.com/en/hotels/portofino-bay-hotel/overview.aspx), which takes on the personality of the titular Italian seaside village; the stylish and upbeat Hard Rock Hotel (www.loewshotels.com/en/hotels/hard-rock-hotel/overview.aspx); and the South Seas-themed Royal Pacific Resort (www.loewshotels.com/en/hotels/royal-pacific-resort/overview.aspx). All resorts offer access to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure and CityWalk via boat.
The Hard Rock Hotel recently got a $6.8 million makeover in all 650 rooms. One highlight is the 12,000-square-foot sand beach pool featuring an underwater stereo sound system.
For a serene stay, suggest the Portofino Bay. The 750-room hotel features strolling musicians singing festive Italian songs.
One of the biggest highlights for any guest staying at these three hotels is Universal Express. This program helps maximize the theme park experience, because guests can simply show their valid room key at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, skip those long waits and go straight to the front of the line.
The dedicated travel agent web site for Universal Orlando Resort is www.universaltravelagents.com, or call 800-331-3134.
At Walt Disney World, there are a variety of hotels that fit all budgets. All hotels feature complimentary bus service throughout the resort. Additionally, the resort has a complimentary airport shuttle and luggage delivery service dubbed Disney's Magical Express, which delivers belongings right to your clients' room. At the end of the trip, Disney will even get the luggage back to the airport and checked in. Call 407-827-6777 to schedule service.
Resort highlights include Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge, a deluxe resort with its own 33-acre savannah. Disney's Pop Century Resort features larger-than-life icons of 20th-century popular culture such as Duncan Yo-Yos. Disney's Contemporary Resort has been recently redone, and Dis-ney's Wilderness Lodge immerses guests in a great wilderness experience. For more information, visit disneyworld.disney.go.com. Also, you may call their Commission Research hotline at 407-828-5147.
Nickelodeon Family Suites by Holiday Inn (866-462-6425, www.nickhotel.com) features Nickelodeon-themed KidSuites rooms with characters such as Dora the Explorer. Every family suite has a parlor area, game table and more. Rates can be as low as $160 per night off season and $300 or more during peak times. Commission is 13 percent. Call 407-387-1840 for more information.
Just outside Walt Disney World is the Gaylord Palms Resort (www.gaylordhotels.com/gaylordpalms), which has a 4.5-acre enclosed atrium. Canyon Ranch SpaClub (www.canyonranch.com/spaclubs/gaylord-palms-kissimmee.aspx) is a Mobil four-star facility with several attractions.
Beyond The Parks
The Mall at Millenia (www.mallatmillenia.com) has stores such as Cartier and well-known restaurants such as the Cheesecake Factory (407-226-0333).
At Pointe Orlando (www.pointeorlando.com), an open-air shopping plaza, there are more than 40 specialty retailers and entertainment venues. Casual restaurants include the family- style Maggiano's Little Italy (407-241-8650) and the Tommy Bahama Tropical Café (321-281-5888). The upscale Capital Grille (407-370-4392) offers dry-aged steaks.
Downtown Disney is also an option. This huge 120-acre complex has three distinct areas, each with shopping, dining and entertainment. Here you'll find the Cirque du Soleil show, La Nouba. Tickets range from $63 to $112 and are available up to six months in advance at www.omniticket.net/cds or 407-939-7600. —GH
- 1. Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau www.orlandoinfo.com|~www.orlandoinfo.com/